Next six months crucial to survival of small businesses

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An H&R Block survey of over 1200 small-business owners with fewer than 50 employees revealed that 76 per cent have seen a negative impact on their business since the beginning of 2020, with 79 per cent experiencing a decrease in revenue since the COVID-19 outbreak in early March 2020.

The owners of bricks-and-mortar stores, who are unable to take most of their business online, feel they are most at risk from ongoing state government restrictions on their ability to trade, with over a half of them fearful that survival will not be possible if stay-at-home orders remain in place.

While small-business owners support aspects of the government response to COVID-19, many are unsatisfied with how the pandemic has been handled by the local and federal government. Two thirds of small business owners (including 64 per cent with brick and mortar locations) say they supported stay-at-home orders despite the impact on their business. However, 59 per cent say they are angry about how the government failed small businesses in response to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, 23 per cent believe that the response of the federal government to COVID-19 has been effective, and 29 per cent say that the response of the federal government to COVID-19 has changed who they will vote for in the November election. Overall, 95 per cent of small-business owners say that since the COVID-19 pandemic, they have not been contacted by local or federal elected representatives or their offices to try and understand the unique challenges they are facing.

Community response has been a mixed one for small-business owners. On one hand, 50 per cent believe that there seems to be a renewed interest in “shopping locally” in their area, and 49 per cent believe that people would rather shop at small businesses than larger corporations. However, 63 per cent are worried that many of their customers may no longer be able to afford their products and services.

In an attempt to tap into that community support, small businesses have pivoted their business offering, creating products to meet new needs, digitising their presence, and making operational changes. Almost a third, 30 per cent, opted to create new products/services to meet new needs, while 38 per cent considered paying for themselves and/or their staff to get new skills/training due to COVID-19.